Invaluable advice from experienced teachers for every stage of education. Here we talk about Sixth Form, when important decisions have to be made.
Frewen College – Hazel Lawrence, Head of Sixth Form
At this stage our kids are young adults – not children. How can parents support them in a way that respects this? (And not get irritated!) Speak to them and listen to what they are saying, even if it sounds outlandish. Several of my students have suggested it’s easier to have these conversations when you are doing something else, like washing up, or preparing dinner, as this makes them feel less intense.
Start Sixth Form options discussions early. It takes away the pressure to make immediate decisions if you’re not agreeing. The summer term of Year 10 is a good time to start.
Work with them! Explore all the options and try to get to a point where your son or daughter thinks it was their decision. Using a ‘drip, drip’ approach to achieve an outcome everyone is happy with.
How can parents best support their children with their choices?
At Frewen College we have a strong ethos of working with students and young people to help them make their next steps and we include parents too. All Year 11 students have a weekly mentor session to discuss options as well working with the young person to keep them on track. In Year 10 students will also have a one-on-one meeting with our independent careers adviser to start thinking about next steps.
Encourage your child to visit as many colleges as possible, particularly if they are undecided and/or there are several colleges offering the same courses. This is really important as each course will vary slightly.
For young people who have a strong idea about what they want to do and learn in a more hands-on way, apprenticeships are another area to pursue. There are a range of them in different fields; from the more traditional like catering or construction industry to newer ones like cyber security.
Take time to visit apprenticeship fairs and events which will provide both parents and young people with information and advice.
Many colleges will also offer taster day events for Year 10 students towards the end of the summer. This is an excellent opportunity to get a feel for a college and experience new courses – many of the courses offered at BTEC or A Level will be very different from those offered at GCSE.
Also, reassure them it’s OK to not know exactly what they’d like to do in the future at this stage.
What is the best way to resolve tension when parents and young people have different ideas about what the next step should be?
Try to visit colleges and/or universities which the young person is interested in – and those which you think are suitable.
Ask lots of questions, such as: ‘What do typical students go on to do once they have completed this course?’ This can be very revealing and can sometimes show the limited possibilities a desired course may present for job opportunities.
If you have friends or family members who have experience in subjects or professions your son or daughter is interested in, encourage them to have a chat with them about their experiences.
Speak to the career’s adviser at your child’s current school. Also speak to their teachers – what do they think about the options available? What are the alternatives? What will they need to do to secure a place at a Russell Group university?
What is a good way to resolve the Gap Year/not Gap Year dilemma?
For many students the idea of a gap year seems exciting after 13 years of formal school. At Frewen College we work with students who want to take a gap year and encourage them to develop a plan detailing what they hope to achieve at the end of the year. Universities will want to know this as well.
For those of our students who are seriously interested in pursuing a gap year they have looked at options through organisations like VSO. These offer young people several short- and long-term opportunities in a number of different fields.
Frewen College, Northiam, East Sussex
01797 252494 frewencollege.co.uk
Frewen College sixth formers
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